Meeting the family of your significant other is an important part of being in a relationship. That said, it is almost universally agreed that the experience can be nerve-racking. In this week’s animation we explore the experience and the roles that alcohol may play in it.
But while moderating the night before seems like an easy win on paper, it takes a lot more to make your desired first impression. We’ve put together a checklist of things to consider before you meet the parents – or any other stressful social engagement.
How to conquer meeting the parents:
Let’s be honest: appearances do count.
Go in with a positive and open attitude. As memorable former leader of the United Kingdom, Winston Churchill, once stated, “attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
Contemporary research into positive attitudes suggests that almost everything is best approached in this way, not barring meeting your partner’s parents. So even though it may be tempting, try not to dwell on things that could go wrong. Think instead of all the things that could go right! With this frame in mind, you are more likely to be relaxed and be yourself.
No matter how superficial it seems, we’ve got to be honest with ourselves that appearances and first impressions do count. From what you wear to how you hold conversation, all of these things are open to scrutiny. What’s more, these impressions take only seconds to form. But luckily, getting in a good first impression isn’t too onerous:
- Usually, you should dress simple and conservative for the occasion, but it may be worth asking your partner about the level of formality their family usually dines in. At the end of the day, do make sure you feel comfortable as this ease will shine.
- Remember to bring a gift. You needn’t go overboard but it is a nice gesture, and chocolate is always appreciated.
- Mind your manners. While dinner table etiquette is generally not as archaic as it used to be, it doesn’t hurt to be polite. Please and thank you!
- Stay off your phone. Clearly this is also basic dinner table etiquette, but given the difficulty of this task we thought it could do with its own bullet point.
Plan your drinking ahead of time.
Why are you meeting your partner’s family? Of course, you want them to like you, but perhaps consider it in terms of trying to actually get to know them. Your other half has spent most their life around these folks; what are they like? You are spending time with someone you care about and their family, so while it is natural to be nervous, it could ultimately end up being an enjoyable experience. So do what you would normally do during a dinner or social gathering with people you care about; offer to help out; feed the conversation; and enjoy the food. Simply put, plan to be a good house guest.
Finally, put things into perspective. Just like the point above, think about why you are there in the first place. In fact, try framing it as though you are finally getting the chance to meet the family. Relax. Don’t overthink it. Do it for them!
Will you be drinking? You may be feeling tempted to use the booze to help with nerves. But did you know that alcohol can actually aggravate symptoms of anxiety? Ultimately, you are the expert on your own drinking. Whether you are having a couple of drinks or none, pick your limit and stick to it. Discuss your plan with your partner so that you are both in the know.
Considered all of the above? Yes? Then go forth, greet with confidence and do it for them!